ROCKINGHAM — Hits were hard to come by for the Richmond softball team in Wednesday’s season opener.
In seven full innings, sophomore infielder Kayla Hawkins was the only batter who was able to get a hit on Marlboro Academy’s Jenna Greene, who head coach Wendy Wallace dubbed “one of the best pitchers we’ll face all year.”
Hawkins’ single at the bottom of the second, which was placed in between second and third base, was the lone offensive highlight for the Lady Raiders in a 4-0 loss on their home field.
“We’ve got two or three really good pitchers in our conference, but we’re not going to consistently see pitching like that all the way through,” Wallace said. “It just shows us what we need to work on and that there are things we need to get better at … Our hitting still has some work to do.”
Greene stood on the mound for the Lady Dragons and confidently struck out 14 batters, forced six pop-ups and caused one batter to ground out. She got jammed up in the fourth and sixth innings, being faced with a full count against two of the home team’s best hitters, but found a way to escape without allowing any runners on base.
“She changes speed really well, hits her spots, and when she misses, she doesn’t miss over the plate,” Wallace said of Greene. “She’s got the ability to throw a rise ball, but she also has a pitch that she can throw for a strike. We just weren’t able to stay on top of that pitch and make the adjustment to hit it.”
For the Lady Raiders, junior Greyson Way was the one bringing heat from the mound — her first start on the varsity level. Way would give up three runs on five hits, but she was able to rack up nine strikeouts. The team’s new ace retired Marlboro’s batters in order in three of the seven innings played.
“I think she had a solid performance. She’s really mad and tough on herself … but she only gave up five hits,” Wallace said. “She missed a couple of spots, and was very receptive when we talked after the game, but she’ll make her adjustments and she’ll be fine. Nobody’s tougher on her than she is, so that’s a positive.”
Marlboro got off to a good start at the top of the first inning, as Regan Liles hit a double and was then brought home on the next at-bat following teammate Laney McLaurin’s hit that got her to second base. Two bats later, McLaurin gave her team a 2-0 lead thanks to Lindsay Hunter’s ball that was bobbled and dropped in the Richmond infield.
McLaurin would blast a lead-off homer over the fence at the top of the third and then watch as Mattie Liles hit her first career home run in the sixth inning — which ended up being the last hit of the night.
Richmond (0-1) got junior outfielder Taylor Parrish to first base in the fifth inning due to a catching error and then brought in senior infielder Mackenzie Webb as the base runner. Fellow freshman Paige Ransom made contact with the ball when she stepped up to the plate, but Webb was tagged out as she slid to second and put a close to the inning.
Wallace understands that hitting is rarely at full strength at the beginning of a season, but that will be the main focus over the next few days in practice as her team prepares for conference foe Purnell Swett next Tuesday, Mar. 6.
“Hit, hit, hit, hit, hit and some more hitting,” Wallace laughed. “We try to simulate as much as we can with me and Shellie (Wimpey) throwing at them in practice, but you can’t take away from what a live at-bat does. They just need to get more at-bats throughout the season and they’ll get better.”
Reach sports editor Leon Hargrove Jr. by phone at 910-817-2673 or by email at [email protected] For stories, scores and updates, follow the Daily Journal’s sports section on Twitter @RCDailySports.